EMBL Hamburg is helping train lab techs of the future

Students from the Business Academy Aarhus visit EMBL Hamburg annually. Many of them return later as trainees to gain experience as lab technicians.

The visiting group from the Business Academy Aarhus during lunch at the EMBL Hamburg’s terrace
The visiting group from the Business Academy Aarhus during lunch at the EMBL Hamburg’s terrace. They have just finished the visit at the labs at EMBL Hamburg and Centre for Structural Systems Biology. Credit: Margret Fischer/EMBL

EMBL Hamburg has extensive collaborations with scientific organisations in the Nordic countries. An example of this is the long-term cooperation with the Business Academy Aarhus in Denmark, which runs the Chemical and Biotechnical Science programme. Every year, around 20 students from the programme visit EMBL Hamburg and other research institutions as part of a trip to northern Germany. The programme is dedicated to training Danish and international students as skilled lab technicians.

“We first visited EMBL Hamburg in 2009, and since then, it has always been on our schedule,” said Rudi Brent, senior lecturer and internship coordinator for the programme. “EMBL Hamburg offers great opportunities to gain technical skills in structural biology and biophysics.”

“It is attractive for our students as they learn diverse techniques and work with a variety of equipment,” said Christina Sølvsten, lecturer in the Academy’s Chemical and Biotechnical Science programme. “In Hamburg, all of that is located in one place, which is not so often possible in Denmark. This experience helps our students in their future jobs back in Denmark and elsewhere.”

Research Technician David Ruiz Carillo is explaining to the students of the Business Academy Aarhus his work at EMBL Hamburg’s Sample Preparation and Characterisation Facility. Credit: Dorota Badowska/EMBL

Since 2009, 15 students have chosen to do their traineeships at EMBL Hamburg. One of them is Jesper Laustsen from Denmark. After spending one year working with the Schneider Group, he got a position as Research Assistant at the drug discovery and development company Evotec in Hamburg.

“My supervisor Isabel Bento was a fantastic teacher for me,” said Laustsen. “I learned many new skills and techniques, such as protein crystallography, which I found as interesting as it was complex. My stay at EMBL enabled me to grow my network and then continue working in science here in Hamburg. It is something I look back at with fondness.”

Another Academy alumna who came for her traineeship to EMBL Hamburg is Zuzanna Pietras from Poland. She worked with the Svergun Group for 1.5 years and was supervised by Senior Technical Officer Melissa Graewert and Faculty Staff Scientist Cy Jeffries.

“I came to EMBL Hamburg for two reasons,” said Pietras. “The first one was that I could combine biological lab work with physics and mathematics. I was also fascinated by working with large-scale beamline instrumentation. The second reason was my supervisors Melissa and Cy. They are the two most inspiring people I’ve met in my life – not only as scientists but also as human beings. Melissa is an amazing woman in science and has become my role model, while Cy inspired me to work with neutron scattering in addition to X-ray scattering.”

The experience Pietras gained at EMBL Hamburg enabled her to get her current predoc position at the Linköping University in Sweden, which required experience in working at a synchrotron. She still frequently visits EMBL Hamburg as a visiting predoctoral fellow, as Cy Jeffries co-supervises her PhD thesis.

Training is one of EMBL’s key missions. By providing traineeship opportunities, EMBL Hamburg supports the careers of future highly skilled lab technicians and scientists, who will become essential members of research teams in academia and industry.

“There is an increasing demand for good technicians, because you cannot run a lab without them,” said Rudi Brent. “Feeling that you’re valuable as a technician is very important. And that’s the feeling you get at EMBL Hamburg.”

Tags: denmark, hamburg, outreach, schneider, svergun, sweden, training


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